Sunday, August 9, 2009

Today's Cross-Cultural Fun...

Yuraku-gai was all decked out for some kind of festival today. Tall bamboo poles covered with large, colorful tags lined the street and shiny metallic decorations hung above. I met a friend and we had Indonesian food, then went to check out the movie listings in front of Zaza City. A mixed group of college-aged young people were handing out... get this... free hugs. They had little homemade signs lettered in English on brown cardboard squares. I tried to get my friend to take them up on the offer, but she wouldn't.

Later I saw a number of people accepting the freebies, though. I'm not sure what the purpose was, other than spreading joy and warmth at random. And possibly swine flu, but that's a story for another time. Little children squealed with delight after their hugs and their parents joined in the fun. Their faces goofy masks of hilarity, two of the huggers chased down a middle-aged married couple and embraced them, all the participants smiling broadly.

In front of a bank closed for Sunday, a lone man in full-on Scottish attire-- Glengarry cap, jacket, kilt and sporran, knee socks, brogues, the full kit-- played a mean set of bagpipes. In between songs, a woman more casually dressed (but with black elbow-length gloves to protect her skin from the summer sun) handed him a cordless microphone and he explained how the bagpipes work and the various parts of his costume. I heard Sukkotorando and Igirisu, but that's all the Japanese I understood. He had quite a crowd there, next to a bus stop. While I watched, he played three songs including a mournfully beautiful "Amazing Grace."

We applauded after each tune, but I couldn't stay. I biked up a street and found it blocked to traffic, long white tents set up right there in the street, and heavily made-up girls preparing to dance for an even larger crowd.

And luckily for everyone, it was cloudy and only warm instead of hellishly hot and humid for a change. The perfect day for enjoying a free hug, some bagpipe music and street dances. What are you doing to me, Hamamatsu? Making me fall in love with you all over again.

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